#PubSmartCon Pieces: PubSlush

Amanda Barbara was the first person I met at PubSmart last week. My friend and I had just arrived at the Francis Marion Hotel and bumped into her on our way to our first master class. Turns out, Amanda is the vivacious co-founder and vice president of PubSlush, a crowdfunding company geared specifically to the literary world.

I know what you’re thinking… Crowdfunding???? Trust me. I’m not a fan of asking people for money either, but after hearing Amanda out, I have to say I’m intrigued.

During a panel about Authorpreneurship, Amanda explained that Pubslush, in addition to raising funds for your publishing efforts, is a platform that can help you:

  • Collect pre-orders;
  • Market your book pre-publication;
  • Build your reader database; and
  • Gain valuable insight into your audience with market analytics.

Amanda describes it as “reward-based crowdfunding.” In exchange for a donation, authors can offer anything from bookmarks and personalized thank-you notes to free books or Skype chats with book clubs. Interested authors can sign up for an account using the promo code PubSmartCon to receive The Guide: Tips To Successful Crowdfunding, an informative manual created by Pubslush for their authors.

It’s definitely worth checking out, no matter what your feelings are about hitting up folks for cash.

#PubSmartCon Pieces: Jane Friedman

Last week, I attended the inaugural PubSmart conference — an unprecedented gathering of publishing professionals who really are some of the smartest on the planet — in chilly (where were the warm temps??) Charleston, South Carolina. The participants came from all aspects of publishing: self publishing, traditional, small press and hybrid. As a journalist and author, I’ve been to quite a few of these things, and I truly was blown away by the value of the information presented as well as the generosity of spirit of the event’s keynoters, panelists and organizers. (Hugh Howey, the bestselling author who served as one of the keynoters of the conference, is not only a savvy author, but he just might be the most gracious one I’ve ever seen, stopping to answer questions for anyone who asked one. Very cool.) By the time I got on my flight back to New York on Friday, my brain was heavy with all sorts of actionable information.

Today, I’d like to share pieces of Jane Friedman‘s enlightening keynote address titled, “What does it mean to publish?”

  • 25 percent of the top 100 books on Amazon last year were self-published. “This would have been unfathomable at the beginning of my career,” Friedman said.
  • Publishing used to have a scarcity of content and a controlled environment, but now there’s an abundance of content and a scarcity of attention.
  • Through the 20th century, to print something was to amplify it. Not so today. There’s too many competing printed materials. Then whose job is amplification. The traditional role of the publisher was:
    –Gatekeeping and editorial. But… gatekeeping is broken. People are self-publishing en masse. Quality is not a useful debate to have anymore, because we’re not going back to the way it was.
    –Distribution. But… distribution is no longer of value anymore in the eBook world. I distribute. You distribute. Mobile is important to the future of reading. It is a myth that what we have to say has to be in book form. We’re slowly coming out of that cultural myth and moving into trans media: how one story can be told in many different ways.
    –Marketing/Publicity. But… it is now about lifetime marketing. The conversation never stops. Authors have direct engagement with readers. The sales life of a book is no longer a few months, but forever.
  • Free has become the tool of the unknown author who is looking for a readership. “Loyalty comes first,” Friedman says. “Monetization comes afterward.” For example, she said, “I haven’t paid a dime for Candy Crush. You can download it for free, but if you run out of lives, you have to pay 99 cents. Now, the company that produces Candy Crush is valued at billions.”

 

Marketing Tip #7: Make It as Easy as Possible for People to Join Your Email List

text2join_signNowadays, we’re all so crazy busy that if something can’t be done simply and lickety-split (make a recipe, record on our DVR) we won’t do it. This makes assembling an email list an arduous task — not only do you have to entice folks to want to join your list, but you have to make it easy peasy or risk losing them. Therefore, with whatever email marketing company you use (I use Constant Contact), make sure you take full advantage of all the services offered, particularly social media integration since Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al, is where many of us spend so much of our time these days. Yesterday, I (finally!) implemented the texting option for my email list so that readers are able to send a text message — my name — to 22828, input their email address when prompted, and, voila, join my list. I don’t know what took me so long to do this, but I’m glad I finally did.

Do you have a text option for people to join your list? You should.

 

Copyright Registration: Should You Do It?

Attorney Omid Zareh discusses copyright basics at the East Meadow Public Library on Long Island.

Attorney Omid Zareh discusses copyright basics at the East Meadow Public Library on Long Island.

I think most authors know that copyright registration is not a requirement for protection under the copyright law, since copyright is secured automatically when a work is created. So why bother registering a copyright?

That’s what I’ve always wondered, so I decided to attend a seminar last night at the East Meadow Public Library, Long Island, N.Y., titled, “Long Island Writers and Authors: Copyrighting Your Work.”  The presenter was Omid Zareh, a co-founding partner of Weinberg Zareh & Geyerhahn, LLP, based in Merrick, N.Y. Zareh advises in various areas of the law, including technology, intellectual property, real property and corporate disputes.

According to Zareh, although registering a copyright is considered a legal formality, doing so does give authors some additional protections under the law. In particular, if copyright registration is made within three months after publication of a work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. (Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.) It also establishes a public record of the copyright claim and is necessary should an infringement suit ever be filed in court. Additionally, it allows you to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service to protect against the importation of infringing copies.

And if that wasn’t compelling enough, registering a work is super-easy and -inexpensive. Simply visit the U.S. Copyright Office’s website, and file a copyright registration for your work using the Office’s online system. To file online, it only costs $35 (to file a paper claim, it’s $65).

Ease of filing. Cost-effectiveness. Added legal protections. Really, there doesn’t seem to be a reason NOT to register a copyright for a work. I think I’m sold.

I Didn’t Call Myself an ‘Author.’ Readers Called Me That.

Apparently, there’s another controversy brewing in the publishing industry over whether self-published authors should be “allowed” to call themselves authors. According to Michael Kozlowski, editor of digital publishing and device blog Good E Reader, the answer is no. And there have been a bunch of responses, such as this one and this one.

Personally, if I’m being honest, when I first self-published Baby Grand as an eBook in May 2012 I wondered whether I could accurately be called an author. Having been a professional freelance writer and editor for many years, I knew the term author to be an individual who had published a book the good old traditional way, through a publishing house. The rise of eBooks and self-publishing changed the rules, but did that make me an author now? I mean, officially? Or could I only use the term author if the word self-published preceded it?

I probably avoided calling myself an author during those first weeks of having published Baby Grand, until readers started reaching out to me and calling ME an author: “Are you the author Baby Grand?” they’d ask (never knowing how much of a loaded question that was), both online and off-.

In the very beginning, I found myself qualifying my response: “Well, yes, I’m a self-published author.” To which, NEARLY EVERY TIME, the reader would scrunch his or her eyebrows and ask, “What do you mean?”

The first few times I launched into an explanation and watched their eyes glaze over. After that, when they asked, “Are you the author of Baby Grand?” My response became: “Yes. Yes, I am.”

I realized that readers don’t really care how your book came to be, or whether you write full-time or part-time, if you’ve written many books or only one. All they know is they read a book that you wrote and that they enjoyed.

So, frankly, I find this controversy kind of silly. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we in the publishing industry refer to self-published authors as an author.

What matters is that readers do.

5 Reasons You Should Write Right Now

1. Because time has a habit of going by. If you don’t make your writing a priority — on the same level as your job or your family — it will always come second or third, and you’ll find that valuable days or weeks will go by in between writing sessions. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

2. Because you have a unique story to tell. As creative writing instructors (myself included) tell aspiring authors across the world, no one can tell your story but you. So get cracking.

3. Because it’s an exciting time to be in publishing. A chorus of new voices. A variety of formats. A slew of new author services. Seemingly infinite ways to reach new readers. What are you waiting for?

4. Because you ARE good enough. Silence that self-critic, but good! And even if you think you’re not, write anyway. You might surprise yourself.

5. Because somebody has to be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling. Why not you?

Building Your Brand: Create a YouTube Trailer

On Monday night, in a lesson about marketing, I was discussing with my continuing ed. class at Hofstra the various social media networks out there and how to maximize them when promoting your brand and your work. When I clicked onto my YouTube page, it suddenly seemed so uninviting and, well, unhelpful when compared to my other social media pages. While I’m not a big fan of book trailers, specifically, I do believe videos — of author events, appearances, interviews — can help build a platform. YouTube is kind enough to give you space on your landing page to upload a channel trailer, and it’s a good idea for authors to take advantage of this facet of the page to give viewers a quick glimpse of who they are and what they do. Last night, when I should have been writing — or sleeping — I composed this one-minute video on Animoto that I think does the trick for my needs, at least for now:

Although anything goes with this kind of thing, my advice is to keep your trailer lively, keep it short, preferably under a minute, and keep it professional, showcasing high-quality photos, videos or commentary. You only have a few moments to capture a viewer’s attention, so put your best foot forward.

Do you have a YouTube trailer? If so, post it or the link in the comments. I’d love to see it!